Panasonic Toyota Racing has underlined its dedication and support to up-and-coming racing drivers by today announcing it has six rising talents on its successful Toyota Young Drivers Programme (TDP) roster in 2006.
First up is TDP veteran, Frenchman Franck Perera, who is promoted from the F3 Euro Series to the highly competitive GP2 Series in 2006. Perera's move to the top flight will see him race for the DAMS team and perform on a global stage as GP2 acts as Formula 1 support event for its second season.
Current incumbents to TDP race seats Kohei Hirate and Kamui Kobayashi will be joined in 2006 by newcomer to the scheme, Kazuki Nakajima. The trio will all take part in the highly competitive F3 Euro Series, a championship in which Hirate finished 12th in his debut season last year. Hirate will move to the Manor team in 2006 to partner his new TDP colleague Nakajima. Kobayashi, reigning champion of both Formula Renault Italia and Eurocup, will move up a grade to join the ASM team, which so dominated the F3 field in 2005.
TDP boasts two new talents this season with Dutchman Henkie Waldschmidt and Englishman Martin Plowman joining the scheme for 2006. Both will take part in the Italian Formula Renault and Eurocup championship with Prema Powerteam in their debut TDP season.
Noritoshi Arai, who is in charge of the TDP from the Toyota Motorsport base in Cologne, Germany "We cannot guarantee that any of the drivers in the TDP will become Formula 1 drivers. But one of the aims of the TDP is to seek out the next driving stars and to bring them up step-by-step to the racing series that most befits their talents. For 2006, we have Franck in GP2, Kamui, Kohei and Kazuki all in F3, and two rookies Henkie and Martin in Formula Renault. We will do all in our power to support them and give all racing fans around the world six extra reasons to support Toyota this season."